GOP Establishment Grabs Delegates in Tennessee

Convention Jae C Hong AP
Jae C Hong/AP

NASHVILLE, Tennessee — The State Executive Committee of the Tennessee Republican Party approved a controversial slate of establishment-friendly Trump and Cruz delegates in a vote on Saturday.

The exact final vote count was unclear, but sources tell Breitbart News that 40 of the 66 members of the State Executive Committee voted for the slate, while 25 voted against the slate.

The meeting, held in a second floor room of an obscure office building in Nashville, was guarded by private security that refused to let a number of Trump alternate delegates and supporters inside.

Donald Trump handily won the March 1 Tennessee GOP primary with 39 percent of the vote, followed by Sen. Ted Cruz with 25 percent and Sen. Marco Rubio with 21 percent.

Tennessee has a total of 58 delegates who will be attending the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio in July.

Fourteen of those delegates were elected proportionally statewide. Twenty-seven of those delegates were elected proportionally from the state’s nine Congressional Districts. Three of those delegates were automatically appointed under the party’s by laws: Party Chairman Ryan Haynes and the two members of the Republican National Committee from the State Executive Committee. An additional 14 of those delegates were appointed today when the State Executive Committee approved the controversial slate of delegates.

Overall, Trump won 33 of the state’s delegates, Cruz won 16, and Rubio won nine.

The 14 delegates appointed today as part of that overall allocation were designated as follows: seven Trump delegates, six Cruz delegates, and one Rubio delegate.

What has infuriated Trump and Cruz supporters alike is that several of the Trump delegates appointed today have gone on the record as vigorous opponents of Donald Trump.

As the Rocky Top political blog posted today:

At least two people on the establishment’s slate who would be assigned to serve as “Trump delegates” have trashed Trump on social media.

They are SEC members Melissa Gay and Ken Gross.

There are believed to be other “Trojan Horse” delegates who will try to be selected to represent Trump/Cruz, but who will instead vote with the party establishment on rules and credentials, etc. to hurt Cruz’ and Trump’s efforts at the convention.

Some of the Cruz delegates named today were also clearly not Cruz supporters.

Former Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney, an ardent enemy of Tea Party causes and no friend of Cruz, was selected as a Cruz delegate.

It was Devaney who, in 2014, acting as Tennessee Republican Party Chairman, reportedly broke party rules by publicly supporting incumbent Sen. Lamar Alexander in his primary battle with Tea Party backed State. Rep. Joe Carr. Alexander narrowly defeated Carr, 49 percent to 40 percent.

Of the 13 delegates allocated to Cruz and Trump today in the State Executive Committee’s vote, eight are clearly loyal to the Republican establishment and not supporters of the candidate to whom they are legally bound (Trump or Cruz) on the first two ballots.

In any potential third ballot, all eight of these delegates are certain to vote for a candidate other than Trump or Cruz.

These “Trojan Horse” delegates, while expected to honor their legal obligation when casting their votes during the first two ballots for the presidential nominee, are expected to side with the anti-Trump and anti-Cruz establishment forces in the all-important procedural and rule votes.

“If the state party had simply moved off three or four people who have been publicly opposed to the candidate they are now bound to vote for, the whole thing could have been avoided,” former Nashville talk radio host Steve Gill, a Cruz delegate who attended the meeting, tells Breitbart News.

Trump supporters at the meeting said the decision to include Trump opponents as Trump delegates showed a lack of integrity by the State Executive Committee, as well as those Trump opponents who accepted those appointments.

The entire debacle was set up shortly after the 2012 Republican National Convention, when the State Executive Committee of the Tennessee Republican Party changed the bylaws that established the process for the allocation of these 14 delegates it appointed today.

Instead of calling for the appointments to be made with the “advice and consent” of the relevant campaigns, the bylaws were changed so that the appointments are now made merely with the “advice” of the campaigns.

Neither the Trump nor the Cruz campaigns, apparently, consented to the delegate slate approved today, but, due to the rules change, their consent is not needed.

The 75 Trump supporters outside the room who were prohibited entry by private security were clearly outraged by the process, which they called “unfair” and “un-American.”

John Fey, an alternate delegate-at-large for Donald Trump from Goodlettsville, Tennessee, was one of those not allowed in the meeting.

“We were voted on March 1 by the people of this state. I received the eighth largest. They told us we were at large alternate delegates,” Fey told Breitbart News, as he stood a few feet from the locked door protected by a security guard who refused to allow Fey inside to view and participate in the meeting.

“They’re going to appoint eight delegates for Trump today, rather than people who were voted on [and elected as alternate delegates] by the people of this state. Some of [those eight to be appointed today] don’t support Donald Trump,” he added.

(Note: the approved slate actually included seven, rather than eight delegates for Trump appointed today.)

Fey was included as an alternate delegate for Trump in the slate approved by the State Executive Committee today, but he believes that he, rather than a Trump opponent like Melissa Gay or Ken Gross, should have been appointed as a Trump delegate.

Fey noted that, though the new bylaws grant the State Executive Committee the power to appoint non-Trump supporters as delegates over him, it is not right for them to do so.

“The bylaws are wrong. The bylaws are not fair.”

“It’s not fair and honest. Voters voted for us [as alternate Trump delegates].” Fey added, again arguing that the right thing to do is to appoint an alternate delegate like himself, who supports Donald Trump completely, over a connected party insider who actually opposes Trump.

“I’m 100 percent for Donald Trump,” Fey said.

“I will vote for Donald Trump on all ballots,” he concluded.

Shortly after this interview with Fey, Breitbart News was allowed to enter the meeting room, while Fey was again denied access and remained outside the room.

The long-term consequences of today’s behind-the-scenes power play by the Republican establishment in Tennessee will likely be felt long past this summer’s convention.

“Unfortunately, the divide that was clearly apparent at the meeting over this issue will continue to fester and create a division that will certainly carry to the convention, and possibly beyond,” Cruz delegate Steve Gill tells Breitbart News.


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